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Companies want to cater to babies and toddlers, hoping they grow up to adopt technology from an extremely young age. Of specific interest, tech companies want to utilize toddlers' interest in smartphones and tablets, opening the door to new sales and advertising opportunities.
YouTube launched YouTube Kids earlier in the year, but critics are worried that the ad-supported service is designed to "exploit" younger Internet users. Google said only "family-friendly" advertisements will be shown to viewers, and all content is screened so violent and offensive content isn't viewed.
"Kids are a huge market," said Paul Kurnit, CEO of the KidShop consulting firm, in a statement published by the San Jose Mercury News. "They are the digital natives - they take to digital devices like fish to water."
BlackBerry is fighting for survival, and it doesn't appear smartphones and tablets are necessarily in its future. Instead, the company is focusing more on enterprise security and software designed for mobile and the Internet of Things (IoT).
The Canadian company wants to cater to enterprise users in the cloud market, with CEO John Chen expecting upwards of $500 million in software during the 2016 fiscal year. Looking ahead, BlackBerry will still focus on developing software and creating partnerships with established mobile hardware and software manufacturers.
The former smartphone king hasn't fully thrown in the towel on smartphones and tablets, but is taking a more refined approach. The BlackBerry SecuTablet is a Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 paired with BlackBerry enterprise security software - an effort that is a collaboration between BlackBerry, Samsung, and IBM.
Microsoft has strengthened its partnership with Samsung and other mobile manufacturers utilizing Google Android on smartphones and tablets.
This will allow Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Skype, OneNote and OneDrive to be available on certain Samsung Android tablets - and the software company has at least 10 other manufacturers that will begin installing Microsoft software for Android.
"Our partnership with Samsung is emblematic of our efforts to bring the best of Microsoft's productivity services to everyone, on every device, so people can be productive wherever, however and whenever they want," said Peggy Johnson, EVP of business development for Microsoft, in a statement published by the AFP.
While Samsung has been experimenting with its Galaxy Edge and Galaxy S6 edge smartphones, the foldable smartphone era is nearly upon us.
Samsung's R&D section has been hard at work playing with foldable display technology, but it looks like we are getting closer to this entering the consumer space. An official for Samsung Display has said: "The industry believes that the commercialization of foldable smartphones will be possible in 2016". We should expect Samsung to unveil a foldable smartphone sometime in 2016.
LG is also planning to reach into the foldable smartphone market, and while it might be a year later than Samsung, 2017 isn't too far away now. LG still has its flagship G4 smartphone set to arrive in the coming months, and after the great sales of its G3 smartphone - 59.6 million units shipped - LG is positioning itself well.
Apple, Facebook, Samsung, Google, and more tech companies want to cater to consumers interested in making mobile wireless payments - even if that means they won't end up generating large revenue directly from mobile pay.
Traditional credit cards, banks and other processing companies take a small percentage, typically up to three percent per transaction, and rely on a large volume of daily transactions. Tech companies, however, want to get mobile users to become loyal to their respective services - though Apple Pay offers a fraction of each processed sale to banks.
"I've been surprised it's taken this long," said James Wester, research director at IDC, in a statement published by TIME. "Now consumers are seeing the mobile device as part of their financial lives. We've reached the point where paying with your phone is completely normal, or normal to enough people."
Microsoft hopes to see its Windows 10 operating system used away from just the desktop and laptop markets, with a strong emphasis on the mobile market. The company today unveiled minimum hardware requirements to run the OS on a smartphone:
As noted, consumers must have a device with a screen size between 3" and 7.99", 512MB memory for 32-bit, 4GB storage, DirectX 9 graphics, and the UEFI 2.3.1 firmware. The higher resolution a user wants to enjoy, the more RAM they must have, up to 4GB for 2560x2048 (QSZGA) and higher.
Compared to the current market share of Google Android and Apple iOS, Microsoft has a very small share of the mobile market - but hopes Windows 10 will help chip away at Google and Apple.
One of the most interesting, and usable things I've ever seen has just hit Indiegogo: the iDrink. iDrink is a case for your iPhone with a built-in blood alcohol content (BAC) breathalyzer, a first.
All you have to do is breathe into the iDrink with its fold=out mousepiece, and you get "super accurate BAC readings instantly" through their intuitive app. The company didn't stop there, as they also have a "ground breaking video game that changes difficulty based on a user's BAC level". The game is an interesting take, as it provides users with the ability of looking at what it would be like behind the wheel of your car based on your BAC level.
iDrink also helps iPhone users, as it will let you call a taxi to your GPS location, runs off of its own rechargeable battery, and of course - protects your iPhone from bumps and scratches. iDrink requires $20,000 of funding, and has 35 days left to go. The first edition iDrink case costs $150 and ships in March 2016.
During the CeBIT tech conference in Germany, Chinese electronics manufacturer Xiaomi announced plans to begin offering smartphones and connected home products to European markets. The announcement means Xiaomi is building confidence and readying a future fight against Apple, Samsung, Huawei, and other popular brands already in the European market.
"We are in a position to go on the international market with smartphones and smart-home products," said Lei Jun, Chief Executive Officer at Xiaomi, in a statement during CeBIT. "In the future we will come to Germany, we will come to Europe and other regions in the world."
Xiaomi has focused on its home market of China, with international expansion to India, Brazil, and a few other select nations. The company is slowly planning expansion into the United States, but is taking a strategic approach before trying to launch smartphones that would compete with the Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, and other popular leading devices in the US.
Benefiting from its "Einstein" artificial intelligence project, Microsoft plans to roll out the Cortana personal assistant offering to Apple iOS and Google Android devices. Cortana has been available on Windows phones for about one year, and a desktop version will be introduced with Windows 10 later this year.
Microsoft has altered its strategy in recent years, providing its services on non-Windows PCs, laptops and mobile devices - trying to integrate products to the more popular Android and iOS mobile platforms. However, Microsoft wants Cortana to go beyond Siri's capability, using AI to help with enhanced speech recognition, along with better machine learning to adapt to a user's behavior.
"This kind of technology, which can read and understand email, will play a central role in the next roll out of Cortana, which we are working on now for the fall time frame," said Eric Horvitz, managing director of the Microsoft Research team, in a statement to Reuters. "We're defining the competitive landscape... of who can provide the most supportive services that make life easier, keep track of things, that complement human memory in a way that helps us get things done."
Eighty-seven percent of survey respondents believe it's dangerous to read and write text messages while driving, but 18 percent admit they are unable to "resist the urge" to use their mobile devices, according to a survey conducted by Bovitz and the University of Southern California Annenberg Center for the Digital Future.
Not surprisingly, millennials tend to use their smartphones more often while driving, with 17 percent admitting they do so, while seven percent of 35-54-year-olds text while driving.
"People are admitting that it's dangerous to text and drive, but it's still a behavior that people cannot shake," said Jeff Cole, founder and director of the University of Southern California Annenberg Center for the Digital Future, in a public statement. "Large majorities recognize the dangers of texting while driving, but we found disturbing differences in actual behavior based on age."